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  Dennis, Delmar
NameDelmar Dennis
Sevierville, Tennessee , United States
Born May 09, 1940
DiedJune 01, 1996 (56 years)
ContributorThomas Walker
Last ModifedRBH
Jun 21, 2008 02:18pm
Tags Divorced - The John Birch Society - Methodist -
InfoDENNIS, Delmar - former Klansman who became an FBI informant and provided testimony against several Klan members in key civil rights cases.

Born in Scott County MS in 1939 or 1940.

Delmar Dennis was a young Methodist minister and Klan member who became a vital witness for the government in the Mississippi Burning trial.

Dennis was a "handsome, strapping twenty-four-year-old" when he joined the Lauderdale County Klan and became the klavern's kludd, or chaplain. Dennis tried without success to impose some Christian discipline on the group by setting a scale of fines for members who cursed, but cursing continued unabated and his efforts to collect were ignored.

In an authorized biography about Dennis," Klandestine," he claims that he was tricked into joining the Klan, but there is reason to doubt his story. (Dennis also claimed to have called Schwerner to warn him of the Klan plot against him, but that Schwerner hung up on him.) He did, however, appear to FBI investigators to be a somewhat reluctant Klansman and a possible weak link in the conspiracy of silence. Wallace Miller, the FBI's first Klan informant, reported that Dennis had refused to buy the required gun when he joined the Klan and members had to take up a collection to get him a ".38." Also of interest to the FBI was Miller's report that Dennis, who attended a June 16 meeting that discussed the planned trip to Mount Zion Church in which the Klan hoped to find and kill Schwerner, declined to go along. The FBI invested considerable effort in cultivating a friendship with Dennis, who proved much more articulate and intelligent than the average Klan member. Hours were spent discussing God, patriotism, and the races. Investigators told Dennis that he had the choice of being either a witness or a defendant in the trial that they said would inevitably come. Motivated perhaps more by self-interest than remorse, Dennis chose to cooperate. On the day of his decision to talk, agents compiled forty pages of notes on the conspiracy. Meetings between FBI agents and Dennis were held in Meridian cemeteries and at the naval air station.

In his trial testimony, Dennis described the June 16 Klan meeting in an abandoned school building in which the plan to murder Schwerner was discussed. He also described and explained a coded letter by Sam Bowers to Klan members urging silence in the face of the FBI investigation of the killings. Finally, Dennis may have sealed Bowers's conviction by quoting a remark he made following the murders: "It was the first time that Christians had planned and carried out the execution of a Jew."

Dennis's story was told by William H. McIlhany in the book Klandestine: The untold story of Delmar Dennis and his role in the FBI's war against the Ku Klux Klan (1975).

In 1994, Dennis played a key role in the murder conviction of Byron De La Beckwith, a Klansman who was instrumental in planning and executing the murder of Medgar Evars. Evars had been killed in front of his house in 1963. Beckwith had shared several details regarding the murder with Dennis, and these details dovetailed with other evidence to seal Beckwith's fate.

Dennis died on 6/1/1996; his wife Nancy survived him.

New York Times 6/7/1996


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